Do You Need a Pre-Workout Snack?


By: , – Stephanie Karpinske, R.D., Family Circle
  :  34 comments   :  24,156 Views

I often see articles about the "best pre-workout snacks" to eat. But how many people really require one? If you’re going out for a walk or a bike ride or playing a little tennis, you probably don’t need to eat before you go. Many people just assume that they need a snack when it’s really not necessary.
So when should you eat a pre-workout snack? If it’s been several hours since your last meal, you might want to eat a little something, especially if you’re starting to feel hungry and/or low on energy. You also might want a snack if you’re going to be doing intense exercise for more than an hour. If you have a health condition, such as low blood sugar or diabetes, you probably need a pre-workout snack but talk to your doctor to see what’s best for you. 
If you decide you need a snack before working out, light carbohydrates are usually best. This could be a piece of fruit or some whole grain crackers. Avoid foods that are mostly sugar, such as juice, because you’ll end up with a spike in blood sugar followed by a crash. Foods high in protein or fat are usually not a good choice either because they take energy to digest so they can leave you feeling tired and sluggish during the workout.
Whether you have a snack or not, be sure to drink water before heading out. And bring water with you to drink during your workout. Most people feel the effects of dehydration long before they feel the effects of a missed snack.
Do you eat a pre-workout snack?


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  • 34
    no I do not eat before working out because my stomach doesn't like it. But it surely wants something afterwards and that is usually fruit - 3/9/2014   10:28:38 PM
  • 33
    I believe this is a subjective topic that will depend more on you anatomy. Person "A" may be fine not eating before a workout. While person "B" might need it for XYZ reason or just to feel better. It also varies depending on what workout your doing and what foods your going to eat. For instance I can eat a light snack such as a energy bar, some carrots, etc before a run and I feel a little boosted through the whole run. But if I do that when I am doing crunches or other strength training workouts they tend to leave me feeling sick. - 12/23/2013   10:49:05 AM
    I eat a 4oz Yogurt.. depending on how I feel. The experts cant even agree if we should or should not eat a snack before exercising - 11/6/2013   6:44:52 PM
  • AMBER461
    I go walking at 5.00 a.m and I don't eat or drink anything before I leave for my walk. I don't know if it is right but that is what I was doing for a number of years. - 10/15/2012   6:59:04 PM
    It's also a myth that you need to have water with your workout - again, unless you are working out intensely, or for more than an hour, water is not necessary. - 9/22/2012   3:26:04 PM
  • 29
    I don't usually have a snack before a workout. If I do I try to make it protein or a light carb. Maybe a banana, some nuts, or a granola bar. - 9/14/2012   6:49:35 PM
  • 28
    THIS IS SO VERY TRUE - 9/13/2012   6:32:44 PM
    I HAVE to eat before working out, usually 1-2 hours before, otherwise I feel sick, like I'm going to faint. Usually eat a small yogurt or a banana beforehand. - 9/13/2012   3:17:50 PM
    i try not to eat before a workout. I think it's best for my stomach even though some people think that eating a banana like 30 minutes before will boost your energy. - 9/13/2012   12:32:49 PM
  • 25
    I can't eat about 1-2 hours before any type of workout (especially Bikram yoga) because I can get sick to my stomach during my workout. I haven't seen my energy levels take a nose dive due to not having enough fuel, but I make sure to eat something nutritious after my workout. - 9/13/2012   10:32:51 AM
  • 24
    I swim for exercise and have found a banana just before helps me avoid heartburn from the air I swallow wihen I breathe. - 9/12/2012   10:12:22 PM
    I usually work out first thing in the morning before I do anything! No snack for me! - 9/12/2012   8:50:49 PM
  • 22
    Rarely do I snack before working out. If I'm hungry, I eat an apple. It's light and doesn't bother my stomach. If I work out in the AM, it's banana because I need something to give me some quick energy. - 9/12/2012   12:34:42 PM
  • 21
    I work out in the morning so I usually have a smoothie about an hour before I go to the gym. - 9/12/2012   9:58:29 AM
  • 20
    yes! bananas work so well... - 9/12/2012   8:43:36 AM
    I'm exempt of exercises. When I was doing exercises I didn't need Pre-Workout Snack. - 9/11/2012   11:32:25 PM
    Since I have a low potassium problem, before I workout, I drink a cup of low sodium v-8 (the low sodium version has the highest amount of potassium of all the v-8s). I also bring a small can of it with me. Anyone who has low potassium issues will know why I do this. Better to have tomato juice breath than collapsing. - 9/11/2012   11:09:20 PM
  • 17
    It depends on if I feel hungry or any bit of low energy. If I do have a snack it's very light such as crackers or yogurt. I do understand that people with certain illnesses probably should eat a snack even if they don't feel hungry. Thanks for the blog! - 9/11/2012   6:27:15 PM
  • 16
    I have found that I cannot complete a workout first thing in the morning without a snack, or I get weak and shaky. But I know there are many people who are able to workout in the morning without eating first. It is definitely an individual thing. - 9/11/2012   3:54:14 PM
  • 15
    As I typically work out after leaving work, before getting home for dinner, and do so for 40+ minutes, I definitely have a "pre-workout snack" in the form of one or another afternoon snack about half an hour before I leave work.

    Really, the answer that comes through strongest here isn't that there's a right or wrong - but that we each need to figure out what works best for us. If I don't have the snack and do a long workout, I can feel myself not working up to my best, losing energy. So I know I need it. All the studies in the world won't change that simple fact. - 9/11/2012   3:50:21 PM
  • 14
    I disagree with most of this article. As a practicing nutritionist and personal trainer, I have to say it's far too generalized, and also does a great disservice to the industry. If you tell women that they don't need to eat before execise, they won't, because they are always worried about the almighty fat. I have seen far too many people pass out on the workout floor due to not feeding their bodies before a workout. It's always, ALWAYS important to give yourself calories before any exercise, and it's also very important to have a balanced snack. I agree that too mugh protein can make a person sluggish, but carbs alone won't do the trick. The only other part of this article I agree with is if you're going for an easy 20-minute stroll, a snack may not be necessary. The easiest rule to follow is that you want to have taken in calories,including 25% protein, between 30mins-2 hours before working out. Period. - 9/11/2012   2:02:18 PM
    I have a small something, only if I am so hungry I can't stand it. If I exercise when I feel that way, I get a cramp. Eating a couple spoonfuls of crunchy natural Peanut butter works great for me if I need a little something. I have it now so I try to have a small snack a few hours before I leave work and then I am fine to run and then chill for awhile before dinner... - 9/11/2012   1:39:41 PM
    Like many that have posted, I have heard arguments for and against a pre workout meal. My current nutritionist told me something I found really profound...."Listen to your body." Our bodies tell us so much if we take the time to tune in to what is really going on and not what we have conditioned ourselves to believe.

    That being said, I normally workout first thing in the morning and find that a small snack provides enough fuel for me to train my hardest without fading towards the end.

    Great discussion - 9/11/2012   1:30:17 PM
    I rarely have pre-workout snacks, and that's just because I feel I am so heavy I can't exercise. Water usually does the deal for me - 9/11/2012   1:11:34 PM
  • 10
    I go out every morning for a mile with my dog, thats my warm up for my 3 mile jog to follow. I have to have a snack or I get nauseous and light headed and can't do my jog. Since my warm up is mostly walking, the snack has time to settle before I jog. - 9/11/2012   12:10:28 PM
  • 9
    I generally don't need anything if it's a light workout, but for an hour-long boot camp or more, yes, I need something! - 9/11/2012   11:34:16 AM
  • 8
    If I am exercising first thing in the morning , I don't want to eat a full breakfast before I work out soI have a snack . Usually I only eat a little dried fruit and my morning coffee, but I've found that if I try to skip eating entirely I don't have the energy I need for a good workout. - 9/11/2012   10:59:51 AM
    If I strength train, I have to have a little something prior to the workout or my blood sugar will plummet. If I teach a morning fitness class, ditto, I need a little something to keep my blood sugar stable.

    Now, what's interesting is that when I was running, I couldn't eat anything before the run or I'd get the worse cramps. I'd eat afterwards.
    - 9/11/2012   9:33:56 AM
  • 6
    Since I 'exercise' but am in no way an 'athlete' I've never found a snack before (or after) necessary. But then, I don't have hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, digestive issues, or any other of the plethora of problems that make pre-/post-exercise eating necessary. And I know how fortunate I am. - 9/11/2012   9:22:39 AM
  • MIZINA730
    I never have snacked before a workout. In fact, I've never heard of such a thing. If I've ever eaten before a workout, it was because I hadn't eaten for a while, as stated in the article. I would have associated eating with my stomach and the clock, not because it's time for a workout. - 9/11/2012   9:17:32 AM
  • 4
    My go-to preworkout snack is a banana. It feels good in my tummy and gives me instant energy. On weekdays I take my lunch break at noon, then get home at 5:30 and head out to run or spin so I definitely need some fuel by then. - 9/11/2012   9:09:17 AM
  • 3
    My trainer strongly encourages pre-workout snacks about an hour before our workout. Our workout are intense so the fuel is needed. I've experimented with different things and what works for my body is a Balance bar with a low glycemic index. Along with what was said in this article, she also recommends low fiber in your pre-workout snack. - 9/11/2012   8:11:41 AM
    Sorry for the double post, something hiccuped in my puter, and I can't find a delete post option. - 9/11/2012   7:54:02 AM
    Thanks. I get so confused by some of the things people say. I like to get on the exercise bike for a few minutes every morning, but then I read where someone says I should have a snack, then wait for 1/2 hour or something. All I want is to get myself going a little, not throw my whole day's schedule out of kilter. This article puts things in perspective. - 9/11/2012   7:54:02 AM

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